Communities

This is What Ten Years of Oklahoma Earthquakes Sounds Like

by Rafi Schwartz

June 30, 2015
image via (cc) flickr user rockbandit

Over the last several years, Oklahoma has seen a dramatic increase in the number of earthquakes rocking the Sooner State. According to one study, Oklahoma’s seismic activity leaped an astonishing four thousand percent between 2008 and 2013, due, the study concludes, to hydraulic fracturing for the purpose of ground oil collection, or as it’s more commonly known: “Fracking.” While the exact nature of the relationship between fracking and earthquakes is one which science is still struggling to define (questions of proportionality, predictability, and perhaps most importantly, prevention, still linger), there is no doubt that something serious is happening underneath Oklahoma. 

To help frame this seismic spike, the Center for Investigative Reporting has developed a unique way to understand the scale of what’s happened in Oklahoma over the last decade. Rather than simply plot the earthquakes visually on a map (though they’ve done that, too), or chart their development on a graph, The CIR’s Reveal publication has created an audio timeline of Oklahoma’s earthquakes, allowing us to hear—rather than see—the degree to which Oklahoma’s earthquakes have increased in both frequency, and severity. 

The “song” was created by Reveal’s Michael Corey, using data from the Northern California Earthquake Data Center. Corey explains: “Each ‘plink’ you hear in the recording is a single earthquake in Oklahoma. The lower the pitch and the louder the note, the bigger the earthquake.”

What we’re left with, then, is an ethereal, if slightly discordant, sound-based sense of Oklahoma’s shaky ground over the last ten years. It’s something that, for the auditory learners among us (myself included), can illustrate the true scope of the issue in a way graphics or charts never could. 

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This is What Ten Years of Oklahoma Earthquakes Sounds Like